March Madness: No. 11 NC State's elite win streak extends to eight with Sweet 16 win over No. 2 Marquette

NC State’s incredible win streak continued on Friday night against Marquette.

The No. 11 Wolfpack advanced to the Elite Eight with a 67-58 win over the No. 2 Golden Eagles. It’s the eighth straight victory for NC State and all eight of those wins have come in situations where the Wolfpack’s season would have been over with a loss.

The Wolfpack controlled this game from the start too. NC State had a 13-point lead at halftime thanks to Marquette’s inability to make a 3-pointer. The Eagles missed 11 threes over the first 20 minutes.

In the second half, NC State had an answer every time Marquette tried to make a run.

Marquette made a late push, but DJ Horne helped keep the Golden Eagles at bay with another 3-pointer with 3:50 to go.

Horne finished with 19 points while Mohamed Diarra had 15 rebounds after grabbing 10 in the first half.

The victory is the first in NC State’s last five Sweet 16 appearances and marks the team’s first trip to the Elite Eight since the 1986 tournament under Jim Valvano. That was the second straight trip to the Elite Eight for the Wolfpack and came just three years after their fabled national title win as a No. 6 seed in 1983.

NC State is a win away from tying an NCAA tournament record

If NC State gets a victory on Sunday, the Wolfpack will be the sixth No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four.

No team seeded lower than No. 11 has made the Final Four. The last No. 11 seed to get past the Elite Eight was UCLA in 2021, while LSU, George Mason, VCU and Loyola Chicago have all accomplished the feat.

If NC State wins on Sunday, it can strongly argue that its run to the Final Four is the most improbable of them all.

The Wolfpack entered the ACC tournament on a four-game losing streak and were seeded 10th in the conference tournament after going 9-11 in the regular season. After a win over Louisville, NC State beat Syracuse before a matchup with Duke.

The Blue Devils were supposed to win that one easily. They didn’t. NC State then snuck past Virginia in the semifinals before taking down in-state rival North Carolina in the title game. The win over the Tar Heels meant NC State became the first team in ACC tournament history to win five games in five days.

In many ways, this NC State team is a great example of the transfer portal era. All five of the team’s starters began their college careers at other schools. And NC State is the third stop for some of them. Horne played at Illinois State and Arizona State before coming to Raleigh. DJ Burns was at Tennessee and Winthrop. Jayden Taylor came from Butler, Casey Morsell spent his first two seasons at Virginia and Diarra arrived over the offseason from Missouri.

With three-fifths of that lineup in their first season at NC State, maybe it simply took most of the season for them to get used to playing together.

Marquette was ice cold

You don’t have to look far to find the primary reason for Marquette’s loss.

The Golden Eagles were an astonishing 4 of 31 from behind the 3-point line. It was clear from the opening tip that this wasn’t going to be Marquette’s night from deep. But they kept firing and firing and firing.

Kam Jones, a 41% 3-point shooter entering the game, was 3 of 12. David Joplin was 0 of 7. Tyler Kolek was 1 of 5.

Kolek kept Marquette in the game during the first half. He had 14 of the team’s 24 points and assisted on others as he got to the rim fairly easily. But Marquette kept relying on the 3-point shot in the second half, even though they shot 16 of 29 from inside the arc.

The loss means Marquette finishes the season at 27-9 and hasn’t made an Elite Eight since 2013. Maybe the 2025 NCAA Tournament will be the time to break that streak. The Golden Eagles have advanced one round further in each of the past two seasons after losing in the first round in coach Shaka Smart’s first season in 2021.